Sunday 17 December 2017

Van Gaal clinging to hope that top-four spot can save his job

Louis Van Gaal may be facing his final Premier League game as Manchester United manager tomorrow. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Louis Van Gaal may be facing his final Premier League game as Manchester United manager tomorrow. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

James Ducker

Louis van Gaal believes he will still be in charge of Manchester United next summer but admitted last night that the club's hierarchy had not offered him any assurances about his future.

United, who are on course to become the first British club to earn more than half a billion pounds in a single year, will suffer the ignominy of missing out on the Champions League for the second time in three seasons, regardless of whether they beat Bournemouth at Old Trafford tomorrow, should their bitter rivals Manchester City avoid defeat at Swansea City.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and the Glazer family, who own the club, are thought to be waiting until the end of the season before making a final decision on Van Gaal's position.

Failure to finish in the top four and defeat by Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final at Wembley a week today could end any hopes Van Gaal has of staying at United, who have an agreement in principle with Jose Mourinho, even if nothing has been signed with the ex-Chelsea boss.

Van Gaal struck a bullish tone yesterday as he looked ahead to the prospect of seeing out the final year of his heavily incentivised £8m-a-year contract, but he recognised that his fate was in the hands of the club's powerbrokers.

Van Gaal would be entitled to a £5m pay-off if he were sacked.

"I have said I shall be here (next season), that is my opinion, so the board has to decide if it is like that," the United manager said.

"You can only talk about the facts - and the facts are that we are still fighting for Champions League qualification.


We depend on Man City, but we are still fighting and for the FA Cup, and then we shall see what the board is doing."

Victory for United, coupled with defeat for Manuel Pellegrini's side against Swansea, would consign City's incoming manager Pep Guardiola to the Europa League, and Van Gaal is refusing to give up hope of a dramatic final-day twist in the fight for fourth spot.

But Van Gaal does not believe United's pulling power in the transfer market would be unduly affected if the club did not have Champions League football to offer.

"In your eyes it's hard to attract players of a certain level, but I can assure you that it is not always like that," he said. "The players want to come to us, in general.

"Of course, there are others who would prefer Real Madrid, but there are players of Real Madrid who want to leave there or Barcelona or Paris St-Germain, so it depends on a lot of circumstances."

Van Gaal, meanwhile, has ruled out the prospect of Luke Shaw playing in the Cup final in a blow to the left-back's faint hopes of making the England squad for Euro 2016 and said he will not return until next season.

"It is a pity because he cannot reach that level to play," Van Gaal said. "He needs more time to play. His motivation is still high. He is coming back, but he is coming back next season."

Despite the resentment among some United supporters at the prospect of Van Gaal staying, the club go from strength to strength financially. Commercial revenues rose 37.7pc to £65.8m, with total operating expenses up 3.2pc to £102.2m compared to the same quarter last year. Broadcasting and matchday revenues also increased.

Woodward was keen to point to the success of United's young players, saying the new structure of that part of the club "signals significant enhanced investment in the vital areas of our academy and support team".

Meanwhile, Pellegrini has insisted he feels "no bitterness" towards Guardiola but warned his replacement that the English football will provide a tough test of his credentials.

Asked if Guardiola will be in for a shock, the City manager said: "Of course, it's a new challenge if it's your first time in this league. I'm not just talking about Guardiola, I am also talking about myself, in the first year I arrived here." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Man Utd v Bournemouth,

Swansea v Man City,

Both live, Sky Sports, tomorrow, 3.00pm

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